The FoodChain team sample a selection of new and innovative foods and drinks

Mix up your morning
Breakfast can be upgraded thanks to two new, naturally delicious additions to the Flahavan’s Porridge Oats family: 3 Seed and Oat Bran, and Apricot, Raisin and Sunflower Seed Porridge Oat Sachets.

With a rich texture and a distinctive naturally creamy taste, Flahavan’s oats are rolled for a more textured bite. They are also naturally low in salt and saturated fat, a source of wholegrain, protein and fibre, and provide slow-release energy.

Packing even more goodness into each portion-sized pouch, the latest Porridge Oat Sachets from Flahavan’s contain absolutely no added sugar and a host of tasty seeds and dried fruit pieces.

“I loved the convenience of the individual pack sizes, and the porridge is ready in just two minutes, which is brilliant for a busy morning,” said one tester. “I am already a fan of Flahavan’s organic porridge, so it was great to try the sachet with apricot, raisins and sunflower seeds. I made mine with soya milk, and it the final result was creamy, with enough apricot, raisin and seeds to give it texture and bite. The perfect breakfast to start the day, it kept me satisfied until lunchtime.”

The main grain
Merchant Gourmet, the UK’s market-leader in pulses, grains and chestnuts has launched the Pulses & Grains Cookbook. Focusing on the versatility of its prime ingredients, the book contains 70 simple, delicious and nutritious savoury and sweet recipes covering breakfast, lunch and dinner, simple snacks and festive feasts!

With a nod to the flexitarian, this book is packed with easy ways to please the meat, vegetarian or vegan diner with useful tips to increase the fun and yet take the stress and tedium out of wholesome eating.

“I was lucky enough to try not only the cookbook but also a new flavour from Merchant Gourmet -zingy Korean-Style Grains. These are a mix of wheatberries, black barley and edamame beans with red pepper cooked in a spicy gochujang style paste. They were incredibly easy to prepare – we heated them in a pan but they can also go in the microwave. They had a lovely creamy consistency, and the Chilli Chicken with Rainbow Slaw recipe went with them perfectly. I loved how I could look up the grains in the index to find the best recipe to use. This is something I will definitely be returning to time and again!”

New partnership
Not only has the Ainsley Harriott range undergone a packaging revamp, but has also joined Euro Food Brands’ portfolio, which already includes international brands such as illy, Reese’s, Barilla and the iconic American soup, Campbell’s.

Euro Food Brand’s Managing Director, Peter Butler is delighted to be representing the Ainsley Harriott brand in the UK and Ireland. “The brand already plays a significant role within flavoured couscous and cup soup; however, we have identified numerous growth opportunities in both existing and new categories and are working closely with production partners to achieve this,” he said.

“The couscous is such a great larder staple – easy to make, and the flavours are interesting and can accompany many different dishes. The Spice Sensation had a good heat, and the sunflower seeds added good crunch,” said our tester. “The Goan Spiced chicken cup soup was lovely and warming, with a spicy edge. The flavours were natural tasting and sophisticated for soup in a cup!”

Beauty in every bite
Iconic tea room Bettys is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2019 and the centenary is at the heart of Bettys’ range this year, and will be visible in its delicious products and special events at branches and the Cookery School. In addition to the wonderful Centenary range, Bettys has created a beautiful selection of Mother’s Day and Easter products, which are a feast for both the eyes and the palate!

The team was thoroughly spoilt by the selection of Bettys Easter products they were sent. Starting with the Simnel Fruit Cake, which came in its own elegant tin and is the perfect size for a few to share: “The cake was very moist, heavy with fruit and had a very generous marzipan top layer as well as in the middle. Spicy and fragrant, it was truly delicious,” said our tester.

The Caramel-filled Chocolate Easter Selection included seven filled white and milk chocolates, featuring butterflies, flowers, a duck, an Easter bunny and a speckled egg. These were beautifully shaped, and the caramel wasn’t too sweet but perfectly balanced with the chocolate. Each chocolate was a good size too.

The Champagne Truffle Eggs, which are individually hand-decorated with Royal icing spring flowers reveal a rich Champagne and Marc de Champagne truffle filling in the centre, and were described as ‘totally wonderful’, while The Hand-Painted Ganache Eggs were equally amazing, with delicious smooth chocolate and a lovely soft ganache filling.

“Every Bettys product was not only beautiful to look at, but also extremely high quality. The entire range filled me with delight!” summed up the tester.

First for the UK
Energy Ball Recipes is revolutionising the snack industry with the launch of the UK’s first vegan-friendly recipe kit of its kind. Created by Victoria Prince in her Derbyshire development kitchen, these recipe boxes can be delivered to your door each month with all the ingredients and instructions needed to make 30 no bake treats.

Victoria hopes that the snack boxes will provide healthy alternatives for school lunch boxes, offices, day trips or even commuters. “Energy balls are packed full of goodness. Made with fresh, natural ingredients they are full of the vitamins and nutrients needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle,” said Victoria about her new venture. All of the recipes are vegan and vegetarian friendly with the packaging completely plastic free and biodegradable making them good for the planet as well as your body.

“These were very easy to make – each ingredient was in its own little bag and the instructions were simple. The mixing was very quick and easy, and it was satisfying to roll them out into little balls. I chose to make mine a bit bigger than the recommended size! I tried them before the gym for an energy boost and one after a workout for an additional protein hit alongside my protein shake. They tasted great, with the peanut and cacao as most prominent flavours; the coconut added a nice edge too.”

Real snack food
LÄRABAR, the cult US vegan snack brand and creator of the original fruit and nut bar, has now hit UK shores with listings in Sainsbury’s and Amazon. The brand debuted with three multipack SKUs: Apple Cinnamon, Banana Choc Chip and Peanut Butter Choc Chip, which are a mix of top sellers in the US and on-trend flavours that resonate with British consumers.

Richard Williams, Business Director of New Ventures, General Mills Europe explained that the launch of LÄRABAR is a key part of General Mills’ strategy to become the number one snack bar manufacturer. “As our first 100 per cent vegan and ‘real food’ snack bar launch in the UK, this launch will allow us to address increasing consumer demand for simple, minimally processed snacks,” he said.

“Having launched in 2000 in the US with great success, LÄRABAR is the trailblazing and original fruit and nut bar in the snacking category and we’ve picked a range of flavours to appeal to the UK market.”

The LÄRABAR promise of no more than six ingredients, and no added flavours or sugar, impressed the Testers, as did the packaging which managed to be retro and modern at the same time! The texture wasn’t too chewy, but rather had a nice crumble to it. “The Peanut Butter Choc Chip was my favourite,” commented one team member. “It had a good chocolatey flavour, at the same time as being peanutty and fruity as well! The bars made a great breakfast, but also worked as an afternoon pick-me-up.”